Category: Education

The Probability of Competing In Sports Beyond High School

As a teacher, I have often heard students tell me that they don’t need to learn anything in school because they’re “going pro” in one sport or another. I have always pointed out that it is an incredibly short-sighted strategy because the odds of making it to the pros are incredibly slim.

I just never knew exactly how slim. Now I do. Here’s a chart from the NCAA:

Those are not good odds, and it backs up a line of questioning I have always used to disabuse them of their notions:

“Do you know anyone in this school who is better than you are in (say) basketball? If you do, you’re already done.”

How Billionaires Control The School Systems

Here’s an interesting article from a leftist magazine, Dissent, on how a few billionaires and their foundations are controlling—likely to its detriment—the direction our public schools are taking.

THE cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

As someone in the trenches of education, I am absolutely convinced that the nations schools are going backward—not forward—with every new reform. We’ve spent two decades trying all of these new-fangled education ideas dreamed up by ambitious Ph.D.s and power accumulating state and federal bureaucrats and the end result, if you believe these same Ph.D.s and Bureaucrats is that things are getting worse. So much worse, in fact, that we need even more change than before.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Lets go back to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic with traditional teaching methods. That’s the education that the Ph.D.s and bureaucrats received that made them so smart in the first place.

Visual Understanding Environment Tool

I just ran across the free Tufts University Visual Understanding Environment tool and am very excited about the possibilities for classroom use. It essentially lets you create a mind map/concept map/pathway and then created multiple annotated pathways through that map. By linking various boxes, you can show each one individually in sequence, or the entire map as a whole, showing the interconnectedness.

Amazing stuff. Here’s what they say:

What is VUE?
At its core, the Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is a concept and content mapping application, developed to support teaching, learning and research and for anyone who needs to organize, contextualize, and access digital information. Using a simple set of tools and a basic visual grammar consisting of nodes and links, faculty and students can map relationships between concepts, ideas and digital content.

Concept mapping is not new to the educational field. In fact, the benefits of concept mapping as a learning tool have been documented by over 40 years of cognitive science research. VUE provides a concept mapping interface, which can be used as such, or as an interface to organize digital content in non-linear ways.

Numerous tools currently exist for locating digital information, but few applications are available for making sense of the information available to us. As the availability of digital information continues to increase, VUE sets itself apart as a flexible tool to help faculty and students integrate, organize and contextualize electronic content in their work. Digital content can be accessed via the Web, or using the VUE’s “Resources” panel to tap into digital repositories, FTP servers and local file systems.

Sharing and presenting information are important aspects of academic work. VUE’s pathways feature allows presenters to create annotated trails through their maps, which become expert guided walk-throughs of the information. The pathways feature also provides a “slide view” of the information on the map. The power of VUE’s slide mode is the ability for presenters to focus on content (slide view) while preserving the information’s context (map view), by way of a single toggle between the two views.

VUE also provides supports for in-depth analysis of maps, with the ability to merge maps and export connectivity matrices to import in statistical packages. VUE also provide tools to apply semantic meaning to the maps, by way of ontologies and metadata schemas.
VUE can be used by anyone interested in visually structuring digital content, whether in support of teaching difficult to understand concepts or more generally, a tool for organizing personal digital resources.


What is Economics?

I was just listening to Russ Roberts, a George Mason University Economics professor, and he said something that struck me:

Economics is the study of how to get the most out of life.

I’ve just got to find a way to convey that to my students.